Anti-bacterial soaps as effective as plain soaps

One of the most basic steps in keeping our bodies clean and healthy is washing our hands. Time and again, hand washing has been part of our society and industries have been built around this simple task that we sometimes neglect or take for granted.

Here in the Philippines, where public health is a complex issue and patients die from common yet curable diseases, hand washing has been promoted by both private and government health agencies as one of the first-line defenses against illnesses. And here’s how soap does this job.

Numerous scientific and medical research have proven this to be true, even our everyday health professional would always remind us to wash our hands regularly especially before meals, handling and preparing food or being in contact with others.

So the soap and water combo is a good pair in keeping us clean and healthy. If you’re not convinced yet on the merits of hand-washing, go get a UV flashlight, wonder around your house and you’ll agree with Alix that these things should come with warning labels and we should all regularly wash our hands.

That’s why capitalists, I mean soap manufacturers have zeroed in on this universall fact and have introduced more money-making innovations in the form of anti-bacterial soaps. Today, soaps do not only come in the different colors the human eye could detect or the plethora of scents we could indentify they now come in various anti-bacterial “fixes” some lying, boasting of 10 hour + more protection.

However, researchers have found out that anti-bacterial soaps are just as effective as plain, ordinary and cheaper soaps. In fact, some have even warned us that because of the prevalence of using anti-bacterial soaps, bacteria may gain resistance to some common antibiotics making them less effective.

In the first known comprehensive analysis of whether antibacterial soaps work better than plain soaps, Allison Aiello of the U-M School of Public Health and her team found that washing hands with an antibacterial soap was no more effective in preventing infectious illness than plain soap. Moreover, antibacterial soaps at formulations sold to the public do not remove any more bacteria from the hands during washing than plain soaps.

Because of the way the main active ingredient—triclosan—in many antibacterial soaps reacts in the cells, it may cause some bacteria to become resistant to commonly used drugs such as amoxicillin, the researchers say. These changes have not been detected at the population level, but e-coli bacteria bugs adapted in lab experiments showed resistance when exposed to as much as 0.1 percent wt/vol triclosan soap.

“What we are saying is that these e-coli could survive in the concentrations that we use in our (consumer formulated) antibacterial soaps,” Aiello said. “What it means for consumers is that we need to be aware of what’s in the products. The soaps containing triclosan used in the community setting are no more effective than plain soap at preventing infectious illness symptoms, as well as reducing bacteria on the hands.”

I just wonder if the same phenomenon has been observed from using those popularized hand-sanitizers?

But this is something we should seriously consider. Something that is similar to the baby formulas those pharmaceuticals are shoving down mothers’ and babies’ throats. More so, we should really re-consider our usage of anti-bacterial soaps since studies about its active ingredient, triclosan have been shown to produce potentially toxic byproducts.

But wait there’s more! According to World Watch:

  • Although labeled antibacterial, most germ- fighting soaps are actually antimicrobial, attacking viruses as well as bacteria.
  • The global market for soap is projected to reach $6 billion by 2008. Growth is fastest in Asia, where demand for enhanced soap products—including antimicrobials—is rising rapidly.
  • Triclosan, the leading germ-fighting compound in antimicrobial soaps, acts by destroying enzymes in bacteria cell walls so they cannot replicate; it targets the same enzyme as the antibiotic isoniazid, used to treat tuberculosis.
  • In the United States, 75 percent of liquid soaps and nearly 30 percent of bar soaps now contain triclosan and other germ- fighting compounds, whose prevalence can foster the growth of bacterial resistance.
  • A 2002 study by the U.S. Geological Survey found that triclosan and phthalates from antibacterial soaps and other detergents were polluting water bodies across the U.S. in low concentrations through wastewater.

It’s good to pour in some innovation to health-related products but then again, in the name of profit, we could get carried away and in the end, the paying consumers will be the ones to get the ugly end.

Isn’t that right “Captain Safeguardian”? 😛

So which one do you use? The plain soap or the anti-bacterial one?

Stay safe and clean everyone.

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